paying homage

This spring, Anna Pajak received her master’s degree from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Now, her giant oil paintings are shown at Stene projects and at the postponed degree exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, both in Stockholm. And at ed. art, we’re happy to present four new prints. We asked some questions to the recent graduate.

At both of your current exhibitions, you are showing huge paintings. What's with this gigantic format?

I have almost always painted large. I think it's about the feeling that you can completely be absorbed by the paintings, when they get bigger than the viewer. You meet them with your whole body; they become portals.

Anna Pajak in front of one of her gigantic paintings

But the prints are small!

Yes. Working with prints is new to me, but something I think is great fun. It has been incredibly rewarding for my painting practice, a way of inverting the thinking, in some strange way. I can apply ideas from the paintings to the prints and then bring something new back to the paintings again, a rewarding interaction. But at school we haven’t had a workshop since the fire in 2016, so I produced the plates for these prints on a course that took place in Helsinki and then they are printed in Germany.

A pelvic bone is a recurring motif in the prints. It is also included in the paintings. What does it mean to you?

In my degree project, I have worked with the history of female painting. Both in the paintings and in an essay that I wrote, I relate to a number of predecessors, female painters but also writers and poets. The pelvic bone becomes a symbol for them. I also had Georgia O'Keefe in mind, an absolutely fantastic painter, who often used bones as motifs in her paintings. I like that kind of winks to my predecessors.

The painting "Undreamed" with its pelvic bone, at the gallery Stene Projects

Another motif that is found both in the prints and in the paintings is black holes.

I think of the black holes as trapdoors or portals. They can be both unpleasant openings to the unknown, but also a way to escape. Like a hatch that opens out to some kind of space. My paintings are usually spatial, but in the past year or so, I have often painted gaps or holes in both floor and wall. Outside, there is another space. I think that the painting turns into a floating ship, as though the whole room is floating in space or in the sea.

Your years of art studies came to an end this spring. How does it feel?

Scary! The school is so free that even during your studies you can work as a “real” artist, but there is a safety net around you with studio, student aid etc. But at the same time, it’s fun not to be a student anymore, now other artists are my colleagues and not fellow students. I feel that I can act more freely.

And you’ve done really well so far!

Yes, I'm happy about that! And I hope it keeps going that way.